Month of Action: Mid-point Check In

I’ve decided to focus my issue of sustainable consumerism mainly on access and availability to local foods. My actions of purchasing from local food markets, joining an organization that helps make local foods more accessible to low-income, urban neighborhoods, an organization that does the same for Ohio State’s campus, and supporting farm to table concept restaurants will remain the same. My fifth action will still focus on a reduction and replacement of single use plastics, but I want to focus it specifically in restaurant settings.

So far, I have been able to visit a local farmer’s market, as well as purchase dairy products from a farm that is less than 2 miles from my house. This is relatively easy to do in my hometown over spring break, but I have not looked into the possibility of doing this while living in Columbus. I’ve also visited two restaurants that only source their food locally and ethically; Wildflower Inn and the Metropole. The food tasted much fresher and I felt much better knowing I was consciously making an effort to reduce my environmental impact and support these local businesses. I’ve managed to completely avoid using straws and lids when going out to eat, bringing my own reusable take-out container to store my leftovers in, and my own mason jar for drinks and smoothies. The only challenge that arises here is needing to use a purse that is big enough to store a Tupperware container and a mason jar.

The action I am struggling with is finding organizations within Columbus that not only combat food insecurity, but also accept volunteers. It was much easier to find organizations on campus that battle food insecurity, food waste, and promotion of local foods on campus. I’ve contacted two clubs at Ohio State, Real Food and Food Recovery Network, that focus on making local foods accessible and affordable for college students, and am waiting for a response.

I’ve found that when it comes to myself, it is not too challenging to be a sustainable consumer by buying locally sourced products and reducing my plastic use. It is much more difficult to try to combat the issue on a larger scale, as there are many other factors at play that makes local food availability and affordability really hard for a lot of people.

Here is the leftover chicken tortilla soup I bought at the Wildflower Inn, stored in a reusable plastic container of mine. I only consume meat that is locally and ethically produced, and because this chicken was both, I ate it!

Month of Action: Plan

10 actions an individual can take to make an impact on the issue of sustainable consumerism are:
1. Choose recyclable and bio-degradable products (and actually recycle them)
2. Do research—find out where products are sourced, how it impacts the environment, and hence, your choices (root cause)
3. Refuse to use plastic bags at check-out—bring your own reusable bags
4. Find reusable alternatives in place of single-use plastic products or products with wasteful packaging (root cause)
5. Reuse products you’ve bought for other purposes (i.e. old clothing as cleaning rags)
6. Contact your senator or other elected officials and urge them to support and provide sustainable solutions to production, consumption, and waste management (root cause)
7. Buy products that are higher-quality and will last longer vs. a cheap alternative that needs to be thrown away and replaced often
8. Avoid buying products you want but don’t need (i.e. not buying heavily packaged junk foods)
9. Make use of farmers markets and local food markets—make them accessible to urban and lower-income neighborhoods, and campus (root cause)
10. Choose restaurants with farm to table concepts

Aside from already doing numbers 1, 2, 3, and 7 I hope to commit to doing numbers 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10. That is finding more reusable alternatives in place of single-use plastic products, contacting my senator, avoiding buying products that are desires rather than needs, visiting a farmer’s market and making local foods more accessible to urban, lower-income neighborhoods and campus (by working with an organization), and choosing to eat at farm to table restaurants.

A potential challenge for me is my limited budget as a college student. Although investing in sustainable, long-term consumer choices could save me money in the long-run and allows me to be much more environmentally conscious, it can be pricier. Because of this, I will need to research and find the most cost-effective strategies that will allow me to consume sustainably without needing to pay more. Sustainable consumerism is also not usually as convenient; It is much easier to walk to CVS than take a bus to a farmer’s market. Finally, I have flawed self-control when it comes to avoiding buying ‘wants’ and treating myself with packaged foods, which are also easier to eat on campus vs. making my own food.

I hope to learn how to assimilate sustainable consumer habits into my everyday life in a cost-effective and convenient manner, and turning them into individual expectations and norms. This way, I can show others that sustainable consumerism doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to be inconvenient. I think that by making small, but important, adjustments to my lifestyle will encourage those around me to adopt similar lifestyle habits (i.e. researching, using a reusable water bottle, not using straws at restaurants, taking advantage of local foods, etc.). I hope to discover what resources on campus and in Columbus support waste reduction, affordability, and food accessibility, and make myself apart of those efforts. By actively engaging myself in the issue, I hope to become more educated about the complexity of the root causes that play into unsustainable consumerism and what potential permanent solutions are available.

Issue Exploration Pt. 2

My issue is sustainable consumerism. There are many root causes and major contributing factors that lead to unsustainable consumerism, such as availability, affordability, population growth, social interactions, norms and habits, lack of education, among other things. The majority of consumers purchase products that are affordable for them and products they have easy access to through the stores that they live closest to. Because non-biodegradable, non-environmentally friendly items are cheaper and easier to mass produce, they are typically the items stocked in stores. Sustainable consumerism isn’t a habit or expectation that is commonly taught or reinforced in our society. Rather, we live in a high waste-producing community in which being environmentally conservative and conscious is not expected.
One of the greatest challenges in addressing these root causes, I think, is trying to convince so many people, in a socially just way, that they should alter their consumption patterns in order to prevent continued misuse of natural resources. This is a challenge because trying to convince others to change their lifestyle habits for a cause that extends beyond immediate relevance to them can backfire if not addressed properly. Another challenge is trying to figure out a way to make sustainable products accessible for lower income communities, both economically and geographically. It is often the case that many people cannot afford to purchase sustainable goods, as they tend to be more expensive. Yet another challenge is learning how to effectively push manufacturers to create less wasteful, and less harmful products. Consumers will purchase whatever is available to them, so if producers are willing to make a change on their end, it would mean less work for the consumers.

The EPA protects and “enhances the environment… to the fullest extent possible under the laws enacted by Congress. The mission… is to control and abate pollution in the areas of air, water, solid waste, noise, radiation, and toxic substances.” The EPA’s budgeting, policies, and regulations are determined by our government. So, depending on which issues Congress determines are more or less important to address, the EPA could be given more or less money, which largely determines how much of an impact they are able to make. If Congress does not feel it is important to make policies regarding environmental protection, then manufacturers are given more leeway with what they produce and how they produce it, essentially altering the opportunities for sustainable consumerism. National Geographic states that as of now, many of the actions [of the Trump administration] intend to roll back Obama-era policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution, while others threaten to limit federal funding for science and the environment. Environmental policy and law is the “network of treaties, statutes, regulations, common and customary laws addressing the effects of human activity on the natural environment.” Again, because the Trump administration at large does not view environmentalism as important, they focus less on addressing these policies and regulating waste production and consumerism. This all makes it much more difficult for sustainable consumerism to advance on a national scale.

Sustainable consumerism has an effect everywhere in the U.S. Because Columbus and Ohio State are such dense, crowded communities, a lot of waste is being produced in a small area. The US Census Bureau found in 2016 that 11.5% of families in Columbus, Ohio earn less than $15,000 a year and that 16.3% of families had annual incomes that were below the poverty level. Also, food deserts are common in Columbus, meaning there is limited access to healthy foods and sustainable products. Again, consumers will, on most occasions, buy what is convenient and affordable for them, not what has the least environmental impact. This applies to college students on campus too. Local organizations that are addressing this issue are Best Food Forward, an on-campus organization that gives students access to fresh, local foods at an affordable cost. The Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force is advocating for a program to provide grants and loans to fresh food retailers for building or expanding grocery stores to improve healthy food options for communities around the state. GreenSpot is a “program where households, businesses, organizations and community groups learn more about being green and are inspired to take small steps that, together, add up to a big impact”.

This TED talk by Dianna Cohen, an artist and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, shared her knowledge about the harsh realities of plastic production, consumption, and pollution in the oceans, as well as ways in which consumers can cut down on their plastic consumption. Something new I learned and that is helpful information for my issue exploration is that in the United States, less than 7% of our plastics are recycled and the majority of it is down-cycled, incinerated, or shipped to China. Cohen suggested that, whenever possible, refuse single-use and disposable plastics and instead use alternatives. Because Cohen founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a group that addresses the pervasive problem of plastic pollution, she is obviously biased towards promoting environmental protection and solutions, as it is something she finds to be a problem.

Food Deserts in Columbus

Issue Exploration

The issue I’ve decided to explore is conscious consumerism, or therefore lack of, and its environmental impacts. I decided to select this issue because I’ve recently started making more of an effort to become a conscious consumer and am continuously expanding my knowledge on the impacts my decision-making, regarding the foods I eat and the products I buy, has on the environment. I am also curious to learn the most efficient and effective ways in which one can become a conscious consumer and apply those methods to a larger group of people.

I considered exploring wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, as well as urban pollution, but I ultimately decided to settle on conscious consumerism because I believe that it is the driving force behind the vast majority of other climate change related issues we face. It also encompasses the same dilemmas faced in my other issue considerations.

I will undoubtedly need to work with other people when exploring this issue, which can be a challenge, as there will be various beliefs, viewpoints, and opinions, some of which may not align with mine. I need to be sure to keep an open mind, be patient and understanding, and apply what I learn to my own life. Cognitive dissonance, “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change” is very common when it comes to others’ beliefs about the environment. Many people, myself included, verbally support the well-being of our planet and disfavor climate change, but we also don’t take responsibility, are ignorant, or simply just don’t have the resources available to consciously consume.

The environmental (Planet) aspect of the 3 P’s is fairly self-explanatory, as “the conscious consumer is one that seeks out ways to make positive decisions on what they buy, and solutions to the negative impacts caused by consumerism” and within this realm of negative impacts are the effects to the environment due to waste, pollution, and one’s carbon footprint.
The social (People) portion of conscious consumerism revolves around the influence significant others and knowledgeable others have on one’s decision-making. Looking at who influences people to make the decisions they do in the grocery store, at the mall, etc. and what factors play into a person or a group of persons willingness to make more informed decisions is vital to making a long-term change.
The economic (Profit) side of conscious consumerism is also quite obvious. Looking at sustainability of products, price volatility, and the different options and prices available to different consumers also influences decision-making. Supporting small and local businesses is a step in the right direction.


Columbus To-Do List Pt. 2

Sarah, Melina, and I visited our final two locations from the ‘Ice Cream and Desserts’ to-do list– Rocket Fizz and jeni’s Ice Cream.

At jeni’s we tried a scoop of the Creamy Butter Cake and the Black Cat Espresso. I love the variety of unique and delicious flavors they have to offer. There were some odd flavors that I wasn’t super fond of, like pistachio, but I still enjoyed trying all of them out and learning what flavors like “churro” and “lavender” tastes like. I’ve been to jeni’s a couple times before and have had a good experience each time, so yes I would recommend it!

We visited Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop next. This store was my personal favorite out of all the places on the list because it was so unique. The store itself is its own little world. Hundreds of flavors of soda lined the walls and there were intricate, crazy displays of taffy and candy everywhere. The employee said they sell candy from Japan, Germany, France, and many other places from all over the world. The store also had tons of odd collections of knick knacks. My favorite part was definitely all the weird names of some of the soda flavors, and some of  the weird flavors themselves. Some of the weirdest (and grossest) flavors I found were Pirate Snot, Rocket Fuel, Pimple Juice, Grass, Hot Wing Sauce, and Death (just to name a few). Although we were tempted to test some of these out, we settled for a ‘Fungal Fruit’ flavor, which was a mixture of pink passion fruit and lime. It tasted like liquid gummy worms. I really enjoyed this place and would definitely recommend it to others.

Here is a picture of Sarah recycling the glass bottle from the soda we drank! 🙂 Because we care about the environment.

These experiences have allowed me to get more comfortable with areas of Columbus that may not be so close to campus and get a better chance to explore the Short North. It was also a great opportunity for me to spend more time with my friends and take a break from the general stress of college. I have a major sweet tooth, so it was a nice treat to be able to do this for school purposes!

Now that I have spent more time in the Short North, I definitely want to explore that area a bit more. It’s really cute  and I think it would be a really fun place to go to on the weekends with friends. I really enjoy the wide variety of restaurants and shops they have and I also enjoy the street art, murals, and galleries.

Career Exploration Assignment

My code is ISE– Investigative, Social, and Enterprising.

Right now in my career exploration process, I am at the Career Exploration step. I know for a fact that I want to work in an occupation that will in some way help in bettering the environment, but that is a very broad objective, and there are numerous occupational fields that may settle that requirement. I am gathering more information on different fields and academic areas of study in order to see which ones spark my interests and passions. I have found that I am really intrigued by the sustainable business side of things (hence the “E”), and I especially like that it is a rather new and up-and-coming area of study, so it has not been as developed (hence the “I”), but I would thoroughly enjoy working outdoors and developing a more direct impactful way to protect and preserve the environment.

This workshop allowed me to recognize the traits I have and in what ways I can use them to be successful in various aspects of life. I had never really stepped back and thought of how these traits can influence my career path, and the importance of incorporating them when in search of a career in order to find one that will make me happy. I am happy that my major is so versatile and I am very confident that no matter what route I take from it, that I am headed in the right direction.

O*Net recommended many “green” industry jobs for my code, such as soil and water conservationists, urban and regional planners, industrial ecologists, environmental economists, etc. This is very encouraging because I am incredibly interested in many of those jobs and related fields! Working directly with the environment (i.e. ecology, conservation) would be an amazing job experience. Also, after meeting with Dr. Haab, a professor here at Ohio State, an environmental economist, and a developer of the EEDS major (the major I am currently enrolled in), he sparked my interest in the field. Again, I am also highly considering the sustainable business portion of the EEDS major, so I believe that my current academic plan in right on track. I plan on waiting until I become more educated on these fields before deciding if/when I want to pick up a minor, and in what cases graduate school will be needed.

My next step now is “Reality Testing” in order to actually try out career ideas to see if I feel it is a fit for me. This will most likely be done through an internship, so my plan is to start searching for some that relate to my interests. My career goals right now are incredibly broad, so I hope that by gaining real world experience through internships, I can better define what I am passionate about and would enjoy doing as a career.

Columbus To-Do List

I chose the ‘Ice cream and desserts’ to-do list! I am most looking forward to all the different sweets I get to try, as I am a sugar addict and desserts make me happy. I am also excited to spend some time with my ENR Scholars friends. I am hoping to be able to explore the different areas of Columbus and find fun sweet shops to be able to visit in the future.

Whit’s Frozen Custard

The first place we decided to visit was Whit’s. I had never had frozen custard before so I was excited to try it out! We decided on a “Crestview Coastal” Whitser, which is custard, toasted coconut, chocolate flakes, and hot caramel all blended together. It was very smooth, creamy, and delicious. I would consider going back, and yes I would recommend this to a friend.

Graeter’s Ice Cream

We then made our way over to Graeter’s, which is the ice cream I grew up with, so I was very excited. We got one scoop of their seasonal pumpkin flavor (it tasted just like pumpkin pie), and their more popular (and my favorite) black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream. Melina, having grown up in L.A., had never experienced Graeter’s, so I was glad that she enjoyed it as much as I did! I love Graeter’s and I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

We also stopped at Dairy Queen, despite it not being on the list, because Melina had never even heard of DQ. We all shared a pumpkin pie blizzard because ’tis the season.

Johnson’s Real Ice Cream

Our last stop of the day was Johnson’s. Driving through Bexley was an experience in itself, as it is a realllyyy nice area. I wasn’t too fond of the actual ice cream though. I tried the toasted coconut almond chocolate chip, but maybe my experience was subpar due to the flavor I chose.

Mentor Meeting Assignment

I met with both of my mentors, Sydney and Nicole, who shared their insight and advice relating to their time here at Ohio State. They shared some similar responses, especially in the ‘ENR Scholars’ and ‘General Advice’ sections of questions, but they also held their own unique perspectives as individual students on their college journey.

Sydney is currently an EPDM major while Nicole is majoring in EEDS. Both of them had started out as Environmental Science majors, but within their first year they were able to figure out that Environmental Science wasn’t really for them and there were other majors that they found more interesting and were more passionate about. This is reassuring to me because it is a reminder that I don’t have to have everything figured out my first semester of college and it’s completely okay to want to change paths. Outside of chemistry, neither one of my mentors has experienced an extremely challenging class, which is also reassuring because Nicole has the same major as me! They stressed that going to office hours and asking questions in class is really important as it shows the instructor that you care about the class and want to do well, and that will pay off in the long-run.

Both of my mentors are heavily involved in the ENR scholars program, as well as Leadership Council and Women In The Outdoors (WITO). They said that getting involved in whatever way possible is a great way to meet amazing new people as well as grow as an individual. They explained that internships are a bit harder to come by, but strongly suggested to actively look for them and keep an eye out, as there are always new positions and openings available. Nicole’s word of advice was to not be scared of attending club meetings or applying for an internship just because I’m a freshman.

Sydney and Nicole are still  very active in ENR Scholars and really enjoy being able to plan events for first-year participants and oversee how we experience the program. They said it is a bit challenging as a second-year to stay motivated to remain active in the program because they are given more freedom. Despite this, they both love being involved and making the most out of the events planned through ENR Scholars as it is a fantastic way to learn various life skills, meet interesting people with similar interests, and experience new and exciting outdoor adventures. They said that “you get out of the program what you put into it”, but that going to all the events definitely pays off because they always have a good time. I really enjoy being an ENR Scholar, so I can’t wait to do my part next year to try and make it a great experience for everyone.

After graduation Sydney plans to attend law school, or if she graduates a year early, taking a gap year to travel. Nicole is hoping to gain some outside experience through internships or entry level jobs so she can eventually build a career out of something she is passionate about. Her current specialization is in Sustainability and Business, so she is hoping to get involved with a career pertaining to that field. Both were interested in joining the Peace Corps as a back-up plan.

Both of my mentors stressed that time management and effective studying are very important skills to learn in college. Some general advice they gave was to not allow stress to consume you and that everything will be okay in the end. This was personally really helpful because I tend to get worked up and stressed out from day to day and don’t take time to step back and remind myself that most of my worries are trivial and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

VIA Strengths Inventory

My top 5 strengths according to the VIA survey, in order, are kindness, love, judgment, social intelligence, and appreciation of beauty and excellence.

Kindness is stated as doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

Love is characterized as valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people.

Judgment is thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.

Social intelligence is described as being aware of the motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence is noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

I agree with the inventory report in that it was able to categorize my top 5 strengths accurately, but I personally would switch the order around in the top 5. For example, I feel that both my social intelligence and judgment override my personal strength of love (although I still believe it to be one of my top strengths).

I use my social intelligence profusely on a daily basis, such as taking into account someone’s background and prior experience and how it plays a role in their opinions, attitudes, and actions. I consider myself very adaptable to a variety of different social situations, whether it be in the classroom, through different clubs/events, or within the scholarship housing program I live in. I am very conscious of the psychology behind others’ behaviors and beliefs.

Overall, I am content with my list of top 5 strengths, but, as stated above, would switch a couple things around.

My favorite strength is probably my appreciation of beauty and excellence. Being able to wake up and go through my day enjoying so many aspects of life in a world that can be so unappreciative definitely makes everyday life more fulfilling and enjoyable. It’s a mindset that I’ve worked hard to obtain and I am very proud of myself for learning how to appreciate the many small, beautiful things around me, despite the vast array of negative outlooks and actions. Here is a picture of me appreciating nature at Hocking Hills!